rape-of-tamar

A MEMO FROM MEN INC.

Indian gang rapes, American high school jocks degrading a drunk young girl, the very existence of Jimmy Savile. Violence against women appears, if not on the rise, then finally getting the headlines the long-silent stats deserve.

But while women are right to protest this wave of vile assaults loudly, where are the male voices? Because this whole mess makes blokes look really bad. If the male species were a company, there’d be a memo or two flying around to put some new policies in place or at the very least a PR charm offensive.

For one, Men Inc. should be enthusiastically getting behind the One Billion Rising campaign on February 14. The ‘one billion’ refers to the number of women worldwide that will experience violence in their lifetime; that’s one in three.

Chances are you know one, chances are you love one, chances are, with our global culture of blaming the victim, they haven’t even told you that something happened to them. One Billion Rising asks for a billion women and men to strike, dance or just share why it is we should put an end to this culture on their website.

The board of Men Inc. should back the hell out of this day, but there are some things that individual employees can do too.

Men who rape and assault women are still, thankfully, in the minority. I do not knowingly know any rapists or thugs that hit women, but I know a fair few casual sexists, I work with some serial leerers and I have had toe-curling conversations at urinals with misogynist strangers.

And more often than not I didn’t call them out. I worry that this passivity in the face of serial sexism provides a potential rapist with a leg up, a step of shared misogyny, however small, that puts rape just a little more within their reach.

If my thin smile at your belittling blonde joke was even one tiny tile in the mosaic of rape culture, I’ve decided I’m out. I wouldn’t smile politely if you ogled a ten-year-old kid.
We can, as blokes, talk about the issue, not skirt around it. Pun intended as a nod to those great guys in India who joined the “Don’t Skirt the Issue” marches, pins proudly protruding from the titular attire.

We can step in if some idiot on a bus threatens to cut a French woman’s tits off for singing, in what was a breathtakingly boofheaded mash-up of racial hatred and threatened sexualized violence in the one economic sentence. Or better still we could record it and internationally shame the moron.

We can pass the message on to our kids. My wife and I are charged with raising two boys who will one day be friends, colleagues, partners and maybe even dads. I would like to send them out into the world with positive views on women, then they can tell others – like a pyramid selling scheme where everyone keeps their shirts.

rape-of-tamar-fullWhat we can’t do is nothing. It is not enough to be a nice bloke, a good bloke, a decent bloke – if you are also being a quiet bloke.

What’s stopping you? The fear of being labelled a feminist? You could try the increasingly popular “profeminist” tag for males, though to me it sounds like a cop out. Kind of like being a “prochocoholic” – either you love chocolate or you don’t, the same goes with believing in equality for women.

Because I don’t want to see a woman nervously playing with her phone and looking over her shoulder at me just because we’re walking the same way on a quiet street at night.

I don’t want to worry about my wife, a grown woman, when she has a few too many drinks out with friends in town and I don’t ever want to hear about another horrific video like the one following the Steubenville rape of a drunk student. In it, jocks mock the victim’s comatose state and resulting rape one-upping each other like a repellant rap battle. At some point some kid timidly asks, “What if it was your daughter?” The rapists brag that they don’t care.

I believe them. In the aftermath of such a psychopathic crime that question is about as useful as an umbrella in a tsunami. But maybe, just maybe, if it was asked earlier, more often and more insistently of all forms of sexism it might start to have an effect.

 

*The One Billion Rising campaign invites women, girls, and the men who love them to dance in Sydney on February 14 at St Mary’s Cathedral. Visit www.girlpowergoddess.iwannaticket.com.au to register for the event from $5 or buy a T-Shirt. All profits will be donated to the Sydney Women’s Shelters.

 

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paulchai*Paul Chai has been a journalist for over twenty years, working for publications like the Sydney Morning Herald and the UK’s Guardian newspaper. Currently he is the foreign correspondent for Los Angeles-based film bible Variety reporting on the Australian film and television industry, as well as being a freelance journalist which sees him cover everything from whale watching, meat raffles, children and bars though not at the same time. You can follow him on Twitter: @chai_paul.

 

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20 Comments

  • Reply January 18, 2013

    Alice Shaw

    Well said Paul. Where are the men in all of this? I was recently at a barbecue where an otherwise perfectly decent seeming fellow began to tell the truly awful “joke” about what you say to a woman with two black eyes. The other men there said nothing but I asked this bloke to please not tell the joke. I told him it was offensive and that it was insulting to all women everywhere. I told him it is not funny. To his credit, he stopped and the conversation turned elsewhere but I have a feeling I won’t be invited back to this new social group I barely knew.

    Thing is, any one of the other men there should immediately have said, stop it, but they didn’t. Until all the good men out there, and there are plenty, stand up and say enough, we continue to have an uphill battle on our hands.

    Your piece is well written, I hope all those good guys out there read it, and follow your lead.

  • Reply January 18, 2013

    Elli

    What men need to understand is that for women, in our daily lives and interactions with men, there is always a kernel of fear. If a female walks into a group of males on the street for example, she will be wary of the possibility of violence against her. Women live with a small worry that they could meet with violence and sexual assault at any moment of any day. Men are generally free of this vibe from women.

    • Reply January 18, 2013

      Alice Shaw

      It’s so true Elli. I was recently with a mixed group of work colleagues when one bloke told us about a recent trip to Africa he’d had. He said his jeep broke down and he had to walk back to the reserve to get help. He said it was late afternoon and he couldn’t run for fear that animals might catch a whiff of him and give chase. He said he walked swiftly but in real fear of being attacked the whole time. I told him that this is how women feel when they are walking home late at night. he was stunned and said he’d never thought of it that way. The other women in the group agreed and it was like a lightbulb moment for him. I hope he passes this on.

  • Reply January 18, 2013

    Dee

    Thanks Paul. Good article. Great message.

  • Reply January 18, 2013

    Darcey

    THANKYOU Paul for speaking out on behalf of the decent males in the world, of which there are many. Every instance has a positive impact on the people immediately around you at the time. Please don’t stop.
    It just takes a small vociferous number to gather momentum & form sufficient critical mass to spread the message widely enough.
    I endorse what Elli says above.

  • Reply January 18, 2013

    ro.watson

    Thanks Paul. Thanks Alice for your reality bites story.

  • Reply January 18, 2013

    deb

    Thanks Paul, it’s just SO important for men to speak out to other men about this. Men who rape, assault or intimidate women are never going to LISTEN to them… but they might to the many, many decent other men.

  • Reply January 18, 2013

    Trinity

    First- Bravo for such a thoughtful article. It gives me hope that change really is possible when I read stuff like this.
    Second- I hope that your article gets widely published. Start more of the ‘good men’ out there ( and there are plenty, I’m certain) thinking that they can do something. Set the tone, say ‘it is completely unacceptable’, or just ‘pull your head in’. As the old adage goes ‘bad things happen when good people do nothing’. Maybe this is the very germination of a culture change that could bring long lasting results. Women can’t do this alone- both genders are in it together. After all, ‘women hold up half the sky’.

  • Reply January 18, 2013

    Louise

    Great article Paul. It is true that all of us need to speak up against violence etc against women.
    And it is definately time good men spoke up and didn’t just stay silent when they hear sexist, derogeratory comments about women.

  • Reply January 18, 2013

    Annie Also

    Thank you for this article.
    Good one.

    Like with women having that ‘kernel of fear’ it is something most men don’t understand or even presume.
    However there are other men out here who know exactly what we experience. They are gay men, or must men who are pacifists, or gentlemen or men who feel fragile in the face of growing overt hostility to anyone ‘different’ or ‘not in a gang/group’.
    There is no ‘respect’ for the person any longer and the faux bravado of the ignorant few who feel more ‘right’ the larger the group, other men can also feel intimidated and threatened.
    We need to stand together, so that when one person ( as in Alice Shaw’s story) stands up, then surely others can validate and back up the brave voice.
    This is a human movement. No more violence ( physical, mental, financial, sexual, verbal) against women….and therefore no more against other men ( gay or otherwise) either.

  • Reply January 18, 2013

    The Huntress

    Nice article, Paul. Thank you for your empathy and compassion. By standing up and adding your voice I do not doubt that many decent men out there will do the same. I for one appreciate it greatly.

  • Reply January 18, 2013

    Robyn

    I’m a nurse here in South Brisbane… yes, a male nurse. I’ve seen my fill of the sorry mess entitled males leave behind: I see it in the eyes of my frightened female patients. And have vowed that no fellow male will make the mistake of taking me into his ‘bro-confidence’ with tales of conquests or other misogynist dialogue.
    I just don’t go there.
    Yes, the quizzical stare – “you do realise just how inappropriate this is, what you’re saying, mate” – isn’t a lecture, isn’t a putdown, isn’t a number of things that folks might expect a pro-woman’s rights advocate *should* do but I’m addressing the concept of respect. I expect respect, I respect the rights of others as long as those rights don’t infringe. Rights imply responsibility.

    If, of course, the dude doesn’t get it, I’ll spell it out to him, but most do. because they’ll stop mid-sentence.

    But too few men will do this, I fear. Or, they fear censorship or extradition from their clubs or pubs or wherever they hang out with the guys. It would take a real man – or one who doesn’t care to fit in, anyway, as I do – to face the potential scorn of those who have no respect for women.

    The core of the problem is entitlement. This can only be dismantled by fathers and mothers teaching their sons and daughters the crucial importance of equality and respect for all men and women.

  • Reply January 18, 2013

    Rhoda

    Thank you Paul and Robyn. You understand I think.

    And Elli is right.

  • Reply January 19, 2013

    melissa

    great thoughts Paul – many thanks for getting them out there. I think the same applies also to domestic violence. I grew up in a very violent home – an thuggist father who felt it was his entitlement to bully bash intimitade and humiliate the females in the family – and I still feel a deep sense of betrayal at the people who know what was going on but said nothing. Dictators are only emboldened by silence, this to them is aquiessence.

  • Reply January 20, 2013

    Ronnie

    I’m heavily involved with the White Ribbon Campaign (look at http://www.whiteribbon.org.au/heymate). They and Amnesty International Australia (who did the work that led to the National Plan of Action to Eliminate Violence Against Women) do great work. But NGOs can only do so much. Violence against women will only reduce when individual men change their attitude towards women, and stop feeling a sense of ownership or entitlement.

    You’re all correct. We all have to be the change agents that challenge and change the attitudes of individual men, and the organisation and media that express and transmit these attitudes. But men have the major responsibility to challenge misogyny whenever we see it. It’s not easy, but very few worthwhile things are. White Ribbon has some resources that may help, but it’s up to men to respond to this challenge.

    And may thanks to The Hoopla for giving us space for this discussion.

  • Reply January 21, 2013

    JessB

    I just got around to reading this article, and I’m sorry I waited even a day to read it. What a great message, and beautifully put, Paul!

    I know lots of great guys who treat everyone around them with empathy and respect, and would love to see more. That can’t be a bad thing, right?

  • Reply January 22, 2013

    Vivienne

    Great article Paul, excellent message and I hope this gets copied on to lots of mens magazine websites.

  • Reply January 24, 2013

    Georgia

    Well said Paul. All my life I have struggled with this fact; that still so many men keep up a culture of woman-hatred. I want to like men, I really do, but until recently I’d met so few who really believe women are full people! I have been blessed that these special men have come into my life! But then they seem “special” to me, because I still don’t trust that men and boys think they are more entitled than women. I don’t like going in elevators alone (bit of a phobia) and I was in one with a man the other day and expressed relief that I didn’t have to go to the 20th floor alone, “how do you know you’re safe with me though?”was the response. It just seems never ending and then these men get all defensive and say “but I’m not a rapist not all men are rapists!!” but they sure trade on and seem to enjoy the fear that they can command. This has to stop.

  • Reply February 6, 2013

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